Plenty of coaching jobs and General Manager positions will be open after today (plenty already are). Plenty of candidates will be in demand. For the candidates with options, an important factor is coming into sharper focus.
The issue relates to communication with the owner. Specifically, it relates to the General Manager and the head coach having a direct pipeline of communication to the owner. Teams with an extra layer between ownership and the G.M./coach tend to be more prone to dysfunction. Teams without it often do a better job of avoiding problems and issues and chronic losing.
It’s not a hard-and-fast rule, but it’s something that candidates are watching. In Houston, for example, the news that executive V.P. of football operations Jack Easterby could have less power in a new regime (I’ll believe it when I see it) is making the G.M. and coaching jobs more attractive.
In Atlanta, CEO Rich McKay looms over the football operations, serving as the liaison between the G.M./coach and owner Arthur Blank. In Detroit, team president Rod Wood and newly-hired special advisor to ownership Chris Spielman creates two not one voices communicating with Sheila Ford Hamp, other than the coach and the G.M.
It’s no longer an issue in Jacksonville, now that Tom Coughlin is gone. And it isn’t an issue in Washington, with Bruce Allen out of the picture. It’s also not expected to be an issue in Carolina, where Matt Rhule will essentially run the show and the new G.M. will help set the table.
Teams with long-term success typically have a straight line between coach/G.M. and ownership. Franchises like the Patriots, Steelers, Ravens, Saints, and Seahawks thrive without that extra executive who is in position to claim credit when things go well and to shout “don’t blame me!” when things go sideways. Other teams that are becoming viable multi-year contenders have gotten away from that approach, including the Bills, 49ers, Dolphins, and Titans.
For the people in line to be coaches and General Managers, it will always be more attractive to work for an organization that gives them a straight line to ownership. That extra layer can create problems and lead to dysfunction. Indeed, having that extra layer may be evidence of existing dysfunction.
As candidates close in on taking G.M. and coaching jobs, keep that angle in mind. Candidates who can choose between a place with an extra layer and a player without one will, all other things equal, go to the place where that extra layer doesn’t exist.